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Crime scene tape

Forensic Scientist

Joni Walker

I analyse biological samples for drugs and alcohol and also examine evidence seized by the police.

00:16 My role is a forensic scientist,

00:19 analysing biological samples

00:22 for the presence of drugs, alcohols

00:24 in relation to a person’s behaviour

00:26 or a possible cause of death

00:28 and I also work in a drugs department

00:30 analysing evidence seized by the police

00:32 for the presence of controlled drugs.

00:37 I did a zoology degree,

00:39 and worked in marine turtle conservation

00:42 for a number of years.

00:44 It got to the point where

00:46 I had gone as far as I could

00:48 within it without drastically changing what the job involved,

00:52 and that caused a massive rethink.

00:54 Forensic scientist had been something I’d been interested in whilst in school

00:58 but at the time you had to do pure chemistry,  

01:01 years in industry and then try and get in.

01:04 That has been shortened to a degree

01:06 so I looked up seeing what universities could offer,

01:09 found a forensic science degree in Nottingham Trent

01:12 and enrolled and joined

01:14 in the course of, I think, five months from making the decision.

01:18 Whilst there I did the degree

01:20 and also did a placement year where I was lucky enough to go to Poland.

01:25 Completed all that and was fortunate enough to join the company after graduation.

01:33 To be a reporting officer and that’s a forensic scientist who would go to court,

01:38 you do need to have at least

01:40 a bachelor’s science degree

01:42 in chemistry if it’s chemistry you want to specialise in.

01:45 If you want to be able to progress

01:47 now you have to have a bachelor of science at least,

01:50 and there are also many people with a masters or PhDs within a chemical field.

01:55 Overall, to get into forensics,

01:58 it would be ideal if you could get some science lab experience

02:03 whether that’s through a degree or taking a job

02:07 in a smaller company

02:09 just to get some analytical science experience

02:12 to then move over to forensics.

02:18 Ideal skills and qualities for someone doing this job

02:21 I think are, I think you have to be quite organised

02:25 because your day can change at a moment’s notice,

02:27 such as if there was a high-profile case.

02:29 You need to be on the ready to juggle all your case loads

02:33 I think you also have to be quite enthusiastic about what you do

02:37 because the work can be hard

02:40 and the work can be intense,

02:42 and unless you’re willing to get involved and get out there

02:46 then it would be a job that would drag you down a bit,

02:49 so I think you have to be very motivated.

02:55 I think the two things I like most about this job

02:57 would be one that,

02:59 it’s always different

03:02 and the second thing is probably just,

03:05 just how involved it is.

03:08 You know, it’s just really hands on as a job

03:10 but for every day you’re on a computer

03:12 the next two days you’re in the lab, actually hands-on

03:15 and I think that’s a really important part of any job.

03:18 Just to try and keep you grounded and to remember why you’re doing things

03:22 because the work we do has a purpose

03:25 and I’m not saying other labs don’t,

03:27 but these are people’s lives, people’s jobs, people’s families looking for an answer

03:32 and you can’t ever forget that

03:35 you’re here for a really important reason and the work you do counts.

 RSC Careers Profile Videos by Royal Society of Chemistry is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

“Forensic science was something I had interest in since I was at school. Back then you had to do pure chemistry, years in industry & then try & get in. That's been shortened to a degree.”

How did I get started?

My degree was in zoology, after which I went into marine turtle conservation for several years. It got to a point where if I progressed further then my job would be totally changed, so I decided to look into forensics instead!

Career progression

I was fortunate enough to get my job straight after graduation. If you want to progress, you will need at least a BSc although a lot of people now have an MSc and even the occasional PhD.

“These are people's lives, people's jobs, people's families looking for an answer & you can't ever forget that you're here for a really important reason and the work you do counts. ”